Larry a big Linux fan, says Oracle exec

ZDNet Australia's Steven Deare uncovers the depth of Larry Ellison's allegiance to Linux.
Written by Steven Deare, Contributor
A senior Oracle executive has backed the reasoning behind the software vendor's mooted move into the operating system sphere and illustrated the depth of chief executive Larry Ellison's allegiance to Linux.

Ellison recently told the Financial Times the company was "missing an operating system" and it would make sense to "look at distributing and supporting Linux" since ongoing maintenance and services fees were becoming an increasingly important part of Oracle's revenue stream.

They [customers] don't want to hear about Fusion. All they want to hear is that that product line will run for the next 50 years, so that they don't have to worry about it.

Jesper Anderson, Oracle senior vice president for application strategy

Jesper Anderson, Oracle's senior vice president for application strategy, said from his own experience, he did not find the remarks to be out of character with Ellison's Linux fanaticism.

"When Larry felt that Linux was strong enough, and when we felt that Oracle applications ran as well as on Linux as on any other thing, Larry initially just demanded that every mid-tier server we run at Oracle, run Linux.

"I mean I've been in meetings with Larry where people walked in with purchase order requests for big Sun Solaris or HP-UX servers and Larry just looked at it and said 'Nope, denied'.

"And then he turned around and said 'it's not the money, you come back to me with a purchase order, same amount or more for Linux, and I'll approve it right away'," Anderson said.

Oracle presently bases most of its business on the sale of databases and business applications and has embarked on an aggressive acquisition strategy in recent years that has captured the likes of PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems.

Anderson said Ellison and Oracle had watched for a while software purchasing patterns at the enterprise level shift from large lump sum payments to deals based on smaller but regular maintenance or services fees.

Specialists in this model included Linux vendors Red Hat and Novell which use the services and maintenance model to turn a buck from so-called "free" software. Some commentators have speculated that Red Hat's recent acquisition of JBoss -- an open-source middleware competitor to Oracle -- prompted Ellison's remark [to the Financial Times] that Oracle needed to acquire an operating system in order to offer a full "stack" of software. Such a move, commentators believe, would give the vendor greater control of customers.

Ellison said that Oracle may consider supporting Red Hat Linux itself, rather than have customers rely on Red Hat, to fill out Oracle's stack. "From the operating system up to the application, we're completely responsible. We test everything together, have one set of management tools," Ellison said of the idea of Oracle supporting Linux.

Anderson's own view, however, was that Oracle did not really care what operating system their customers used.

"We don't really care. As far as we're concerned, the operating system is commoditised. All of them have good origins, they have their relative strengths," he said.

Anderson wryly indicated Ellison's statements had not been previewed to at least some other executives at Oracle, saying he had only read the press reports.

"Does Oracle want to be part of [the Linux maintenance and services] business?," he said. "I didn't think so, but obviously after those comments [by Ellison], maybe we do.

"Certainly the service component of our software business is increasingly important. The maintenance revenue of our business is a bigger and bigger part of our business."

JDE customers don't want to be fused
A major architect of Oracle's Fusion strategy, Anderson was in Australia to talk to key customers last week.

There was plenty of interest from Australians in Fusion, a combination of existing and newly acquired software, including PeopleSoft and JD Edwards products. However, Anderson said, many JD Edwards World customers did not share the prevailing perspective.

Users of JDE World, a product based on ageing "green screen" technology, according to Anderson, were not keen to hear about migration paths, he said.

"You'd look at that today and go 'what, do people use that?'. But I'll tell you, that's the most loyal and vocal customer group we have at Oracle. They love that technology.

"They don't want to hear about Fusion. All they want to hear is that that product line will run for the next 50 years, so that they don't have to worry about it," Anderson said.

CNET News.com's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.

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